‘World of Bluegrass’ brings biggest Bluegrass names to Raleigh

The streets of downtown flooded with bluegrass music, banjos and plenty of homemade barbecue for the first weekend of fall

Nick Keith, Editor-in-Chief

The first weekend of the fall of 2013, downtown Raleigh hosted its first  annual International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) Festival, “World of Bluegrass,” which included performances by the biggest names in bluegrass music at Red Hat Amphitheater and the Raleigh Convention Center. Raleigh was packed with thousands of Bluegrass fanatics and occasional listeners alike, feasting on hot dogs and barbecue as they listened to live music from stages all along the streets of downtown.

The “World of Bluegrass” festival also included an entirely new festival within itself called “Wide Open Bluegrass” which featured a street festival all along Fayetteville Street in downtown Raleigh. The addition of the outdoor festival gathered a great deal of media attention, and consequently a very large draw from the local Raleigh crowd.

“The festival was a really great experience. It was nice to get out with some friends and listen to some music you don’t usually hear on the radio,” said Sierra Schupp, senior.

For the past eight years, the annual IBMA Festival had been held in Nashville, TN. The move to North Carolina was made in hopes of drawing a new, larger fan base for the older music genre. In Nashville, the festival had been held almost completely behind closed doors in Nashville’s convention center.

The arrival of the festival to North Carolina brought with it many new features, including the popular street festival on Fayetteville Street and five live (and free) music stages, plus the ticketed performances at the Raleigh Convention Center and Red Hat Amphitheater.

The street festival itself gathered much attention, as Fayetteville Street was packed with more than just food vendors. All up and down Fayetteville Street, one could find bluegrass themed art and sculpture, barbecue sause taste tests and even a sports bar in the middle of the road.

“The atmosphere was amazing, even though there were not a lot of people our age. But I think everyone would have enjoyed it,” said Schupp.

Another new addition to the annual IBMA Festival was the “Bluegrass Ramble,” where, during the days leading up to the street festival, live music clubs all over downtown Raleigh were filled with IBMA bands and attendees, migrating from club to club to play live music, which often spilled into the streets and the hotel lobbies bands were staying at for the festival.

The festival also included a local barbecue cook-off, where local barbecue gurus faced off to find whose cuisine ranked supreme. After the cook-off, all the leftover barbecue was sold to the hungry public for four dollars a sandwich. “Old-fashioned” soda pop carts and plenty of beer stands  could be found on the premises to wash down the state fair-esque vendor food, from deep-fried oreos to mini doughnuts.

“I would definitely go next year and hopefully bring more people along. My favorite part was just walking around listening to different bands play and exploring all the booths. It was also a nice fall night so that made it even more enjoyable.”

With the very strong turn-out for this year’s IBMA Festival, it can be safe to assume that we will be able to catch next year’s Bluegrass Festival back at home in downtown Raleigh.